Small enterprise development in South Africa : an exploration of the constraints and job creation potential

Mthimkhulu, Alfred Mbekezeli (2015-04)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2015.


ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This thesis, presented in six thematic chapters, investigates an approach for promoting the growth of small businesses in South Africa. Chapter 1 motivates the thesis by discussing the contested role of small businesses in reducing unemployment and fostering social equity. Chapter 2 reviews the small business development policy in South Africa and explicates the socioeconomic conditions underpinning the policy. Chapters 3, 4 and 5 are empirical analyses using data from the World Bank Enterprise Surveys of 2003 and 2007, and the World Bank Financial Crisis Survey of 2010 to determine key impediments to the growth of small businesses and characteristics of firms creating and retaining most jobs in South Africa. Chapter 3 uses two methods to investigate the key impediments. The first method is based on a count of obstacles that entrepreneurs rate as seriously affecting enterprise operations. The second estimates the effects of the obstacles on growth through sequential multivariate regressions and identifies binding constraints for different categories of firms. It emerges that medium-sized firms are mildly affected by most obstacles but micro and small firms are significantly affected by crime, electricity and transportation problems. The chapter provides important insight on the sequencing of interventions to address the impediments to growth. Chapter 4 studies the finance constraint. It evaluates the importance of the constraint firstly by assessing whether firms rating finance as a serious problem underperform firms rating the problem as less important. Thereafter, the chapter studies the experiences of firms when seeking external finance and identifies four levels of the finance constraint. Using an ordered logit model and a binary logit model, the chapter explores the profile of financially constrained firms. Results show that firms owned by ethnic groups disadvantaged in the apartheid era are more likely to be credit-constrained. The results also suggest that the likelihood of being credit-constrained decreases with higher levels of formal education. The results inform policy on the types of firms that financial interventions must target. Chapter 5 builds on a growing body of evidence which shows that a small proportion of firms in an economy account for over 50 percent of net new jobs. The evidence from the literature suggests that such high-growth enterprises have distinct characteristics that could make it possible for interventions to nurture or for other firms to emulate. The chapter employs two methods to investigate the characteristics of high-growth firms. The first is logit regression, which the investigation uses to determine characteristics of firms that create more jobs than the average firm. The characteristics are also interacted to identify interaction terms most associated with growth. The second method is quantile regression, which makes it possible to assess the importance of each characteristic for firms in different levels of growth rates. The results show that the typical high-growth firm is more likely to be black-owned. The results of the chapter however highlight the need for further research into characteristics that may perhaps explain high-growth firms more robustly than variables in the survey instrument. The research ends with a summary, a discussion of areas of further research, and policy recommendations in Chapter 6.

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